Kazakhstan Blog Post # 4

Drive Girl’s Camp

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This week was very special for both Chris and I. We helped Drive with one of, if not the first all girls basketball camp in the country of Kazakhstan. 22 girls camp for the 5 day camp and it was an awesome experience.  We started camp on Tuesday, July 15th and went through Saturday, July 19th, 9am to 5:30pm each day. By the end of the week, we were all exhausted but both Chris and I agree it was one of the most rewarding experiences we have had as coaches.

American coaches here for the summer - Cal, Meg, Chris, & Rico

American coaches here for the summer – Cal, Meg, Chris, & Rico

Stretching in the morning

Stretching in the morning with Coach Rico

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Coach Meg with some impressive ups

Coach Meg with some impressive ups

Each day of camp, we had a theme that we would discuss and emphasize with the girls: team, discipline, responsibility, sacrifice, and integrity. We used the ideas behind each word to run drills and teach the girls how to shoot, rebound, pass, and dribble. This is a signature of the Drive camps and each participant gets a notebook to take notes and reflect on things he or she has learned. We also give them time throughout the day to sit and ask questions and write in the notebooks. They love it. It is a great way to communicate with girls and teach them a little English as well. For example, we give them a phrase (in English) to recite or act out to go long with each phrase, such as “together everyone achieves more” or “giving my everything for the good of the team”.

Below is a link of the girls doing some “Coach Says” with Coach D.

“Coach Says…”

Reflection time and getting tshirts!

Reflection time and getting tshirts!

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

Some girls spoke only Russian. Some spoke only Kazakh. Some spoke both, while others spoke English as well. We had 2 American girls tool, who are here with their families whom are working in Kazakhstan. It was a small but very diverse group of young ladies. Their skill levels were impressive as well. Even those girls that may not have been very athletic or lacked basketball knowledge, put in 100% of their effort and listened to EVERYTHING we said, even if they didn’t understand.

Coach Chris with his dribble goggles

Coach Chris with his dribble goggles

Girls with their dribble goggles

Girls with their dribble goggles

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Below is a link to a quick video of Chris doing some dribble drills with the dribble goggles. The girls thought they were great.

Dribbling with Coach Chris

As you can imagine, but the end of the week, we had all become very close with these girls. They wanted picture, after picture, after picture with us. Saturday was just a giant selfie party. They even got all of your “autographs”. It was great.

I wasn't lying...so many pictures

I wasn’t lying…so many pictures

The last day was really special and it was obvious that we all felt very connected. A few coaches also came to the camp with their girls and they were awesome as well. One of the teams brought all the coaches chocolate and they even brought us a cake! I got 22 hugs and if that doesn’t make your day brighter, I don’t know what does. The love and enthusiasm for us was overwhelming and very humbling.

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The back of our super cool pink tshirts

The back of our super cool pink tshirts

Both Chris and I agreed on one of our favorite and touching moments of camp. There was a girl who we all nicknamed “Allen Iverson”. Malika was the shortest and the youngest girl at camp, but was a little burt of energy. She also spoke no Russian and no English. She spoke only Kazakh, which none of us speak or understand. This girl set some of the hardest screens I’ve seen for a girl her size and was just fearless on the basketball court. She was always smiling and even though she didn’t understand us and we didn’t understand her, she tried harder than anyone. We spent our last few minutes together giving each other words of encouragement. Basically the coaches and players can thank certain individuals or point moments when certain people did something above and beyond. So this little girl raised her hand and stood up to speak to the entire group. We all listened very intently as she spoke softly in Kazakh and one of the older girls translated for all of us. She started to cry. She had stood up to tell us that before coming to camp, she told her coach she was quitting basketball. It wasn’t fun for her anymore and she didn’t think she was any good. Her coach encouraged her to come to camp and she was glad she did because now she loved basketball and felt like she could be good at something and she wanted to thank all of us for helping her love basketball. Many of us were teary eyed. It was a great moment. Malika proves that our time here is well spent.

Malika in the bottom right

Malika in the bottom right

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The girls and some of the coaches

 

The last week of July is our Drive open camp, which is mostly guys. We can only hope that it is as awesome as it was to work this lovely group of young ladies.

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